Today I begin a series of articles which will lead up to Hallowe’en.
A zombie’s dozen of ghostly tales.
They are all within my experience. That is to say, they may have happened to somebody else, but that somebody else then told me their tale directly, man to man.
The vast majority of these ripping yarns, though, actually happened to me.
Over forty years ago, when I was a student, my friend Nick and I used to visit the Horse and Groom pub in King Street in Cambridge, on a far too regular basis:
One freezing cold foggy dark November night, we went over to our favourite drinking hole where we consumed perhaps a couple of pints, which was a far from an excessive amount for us. We then decided to return to college a little earlier than normal, to finish our evening in perhaps, rather more luxurious surroundings. It was still cold outside, and the fog was perhaps even thicker, as we walked back along a wide asphalt path which crossed the park. The wide asphalt path is designated by the narrow orange arrow:
The path was absolutely straight and lit by a number of old Victorian street lights. They created pools of light perhaps eight or ten feet wide but, as the lights were about ten or twelve yards apart, there was still a lot of darkness there, not helped by the thickening fog:
As we got out into the very middle of the park, we gradually became aware of the crisp click-clack-click noise of approaching footsteps, and the tip-tap-tip of a cane on the hard surface of the path. At first, we were unable to see anyone, but suddenly the stranger stepped out of the darkness into the pool of bright light provided by the street lamp.
He was in full evening dress, with dark hair. He carried a cane, and, most striking of all, he was wearing a sweeping black cloak. It was lined with what appeared to be bright red silk:
We watched open mouthed as he strode purposefully past us, and then back out into the darkness. The noise of his footsteps, and the tapping of his cane gradually became fainter and fainter until they finally disappeared into the darkness:
The Time Travellers
I have always had a lot of trouble sleeping. In summer, I seemed always to wake up around four o’clo0ck and then find it impossible to get back to sleep again. That was one of the main reasons I started marking GCSE Papers every June and July. It was fairly well paid, and it always seemed a good way to make some money at a time when, in all probability, I would have been lying awake anyway.
In the late 1980s, therefore, I took to s1eeping on my own in the front bedroom. This seemed a good way to get a full night’s sleep before I got up at ten to five to brew some coffee and make a start on the vast piles of cassette tapes, all containing GCSE French Oral Examinations. At the time, our daughter was just two or three years old, and the last thing wanted was to interrupt my slumbers between ten o’clock and five o’clock the next morning.
One brilliantly bright sunlit summer’s morning, I woke up even earlier than normal, at around four o’clock. It was already well past dawn, and I was lying with my face towards the bright bay window:
The bedroom door was directly behind me, and as I gradually became more and more awake, I had the strongest feeling that somebody was standing behind me in the doorway, looking at me. The strongest feeling.
Somehow, I knew that I was going to have to pluck up courage to turn over and have zaa look to see if there was, in actual fact, anybody there. Slowly, slowly I was acquiring the courage to turn around.
Suddenly, I heard a child’s high pitched voice say, “There’s one in here, and he’s still asleep”. From the landing outside the bedroom came a female adult’s reply, “Come away, you’ll waken him.”
Then there was silence:
I turned over to look towards the bedroom door. There was nobody. I got up and had a look around all the rooms in the house. Nobody.
Then, just for a moment, I had the strangest feeling that I had just taken part in a Year 10 Social History class visit from the 25th Century. Walking around in what to them was the distant past. Our distant descendants in our house.